Josh Wandell announces intention to step down as East Side principal

Published 6:14 pm Wednesday, May 6, 2015

NW0506 Josh Wandell stepping down

Almost two years after receiving a life-changing diagnosis, Dr. Josh Wandell is stepping down from his position as principal of East Side Elementary at the end of this school year.

Wandell was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, on June 4, 2013. Since the diagnosis, Wandell has continued to report to work as East Side’s principal, but feels now is the right time to step away from the job.

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“I am no longer able to do my job the way I want to,” Wandell said. “I also know my time with my family is paramount.”

Wandell announced to the faculty and staff at East Side that he would no longer be principal after this year during a staff meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Wandell’s last day will be May 22, which is also the last day for students for this school year.

“This will be my last day with students as their principal,” Wandell said.

Wandell is a “tremendous asset” for the city schools, interim superintendent Corey Gardenhour said.

“Dr. Wandell exemplifies what a principal should be,” Gardenhour said. “He continued to work as a principal and was always there in the classrooms, greeting students and being there where he was needed.”

Wandell became principal of East Side in 2007. His first teaching job was at Happy Valley Middle School as a language arts teacher and football, baseball and softball coach.

Wandell will remain employed with the Elizabethton City School system for part of the 2015-2016 school year as a consultant for the interim East Side Elementary principal. After that he will retire, Gardenhour said.

“We have been working together to do what is best for Dr. Wandell’s family and for the families of children at East Side Elementary,” Gardenhour said. “During the process, Dr. Wandell has reminded me that our focus needed to be on the children and their future. His ability to think of students first is a testament to his character.”

Wandell thanked the community for their support of him and his family after the diagnosis became public. The community has sponsored many fundraisers for Team Wandell to help cover the costs of Wandell’s medical treatment, including the annual 3k Race for Wandell.

“The community has been such a support to me my whole life,” Wandell said. “Elizabethton is a special town. I have been proud to serve my community. The outpouring of affection and financial support through the Race for Wandell has meant so much to us. ”

Wandell especially wanted the students at East Side to know how much he has loved them over the years.   

“The relationships with the students, and the faculty and staff, are what I will miss the most,” he said. “I believe that I have tried to live out my mission with these children.  I have tried to instill the message of ‘Faith over Fear.’ If I have touched one life and changed it for the better, I have done my job.”

Wandell achieved his goal, Gardenhour said.

“Dr. Wandell has been a source of inspiration for his children at East Side,” he said. “His impact will live on in them for the rest of their lives. His presence at East Side will be missed by his faculty and our entire school system.”

The city schools will begin their search for the interim principal later in the spring, Gardenhour said.

“I am going to spend time talking with Dr. Wandell and his teachers about what they feel they need in their next principal,” he said. “My job now will be to find someone who has the same good qualities and character as Dr. Wandell to lead at East Side.”

For more information on Dr. Wandell and his battle with ALS you can follow him at